HIV: The Hidden Face of Human Trafficking



Human trafficking emerges as one of the most significant social, legal, medical, and public health crises of our time. A relatively under-explored facet of human trafficking is the victim' risk to become infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted pathogens. Several studies reported that significant percentages of trafficking victims are HIV-positive. In addition, some of the HIV-positive victims are co-infected with hepatitis B, tuberculosis, or syphilis. The large numbers of clients, together with the unprotected sexual relationships that many trafficking victims are forced to have, greatly heighten their risk to become infected. Furthermore, just like trafficking, HIV represents a taboo topic in many societies worldwide, and the marginalization of rescued trafficking victims by families and society significantly compounds their suffering and increases their susceptibility for further abuse. The interface between human trafficking and HIV represents an important area that needs to be explored in future studies, and should receive increased attention from public health officials.